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Examining the different aspects of bipolar disorder


It’s normal to experience a range of feelings and moods. Sometimes you feel incredibly excited and happy, while other times you feel sad, anxious or outright miserable. Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) is a mental health condition where people experience extreme highs, called mania, and intense periods of sadness or depression. These phases of mania and depression are called episodes, and can shift rapidly. Some people may experience both at the same time. Along with changes in mood, people experience other symptoms that affect their energy, sleep habits and behavior.

Unaddressed symptoms can interfere with school, work and relationships, and lead to dangerous behaviors that can have devastating consequences. However, bipolar disorder can be treated. So, if you think you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder, it’s vital to see a counselor right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here’s a look at the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.

The Highs

When someone is experiencing the highs of bipolar disorder, they feel overly excited and energized, even though they may sleep very little. Individuals can also experience hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania, when they’re unusually friendly, outgoing and very productive, and generally report feeling incredibly good. They might feel like they’re getting better and rarely see their symptoms as alarming or worrisome. The problem is that, without treatment, hypomania can progress into mania, where complications can occur.

During a manic phase, people feel on top of the world, and as though they’re unstoppable or invincible. Often, mania leads to compulsive behaviors such as binge shopping, excess use of alcohol or drugs, or promiscuous behavior. Symptoms of mania include:

• Racing thoughts
• Intense irritability
• Feeling tense
• High self-esteem
• Talking quickly
• Not sleeping much
• Acting impulsively, such as spending a lot of money or having sex with strangers
• Having poor judgment
• Participating in risky behaviors like using drugs
• Trouble concentrating
• Easily distracted
• Suddenly driven to accomplish your goals or try new activities
• Skipping school or work

The Lows

During the lows of bipolar disorder, individuals experience symptoms of depression, which can be incredibly debilitating. If left untreated, these symptoms can become severe and lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Hallucinations and delusions can also occur during a depressive episode. Other symptoms include:

• Feelings of sadness or anxiety
• Feelings of guilt or hopeless
• Low self-esteem
• Extreme exhaustion
• Chronic physical pain without a cause
• Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
• Changes in sleep or appetite
• Thoughts of death
• Suicide attempts

Mixed episodes, when individuals experience both manic and depressive symptoms, can be especially dangerous. That’s because people feel sad and hopeless and have suicidal thoughts and tons of energy at the same time. This is when they’re more likely to hurt themselves or engage in self-destructive behaviors. Individuals can also experience changes in appetite and sleep and feel especially irritable.

Learn more about managing bipolar disorder.